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Nothing had been broken. Sipu paced, his antlers tingling with anxiety, but it was definite that the fawn had none but a scratch. Yet there was still an apprehension in the air, a sort of apprehension that corroded all senses of judgment.
“Drastic times call for drastic measures,” Kashane, his deputy, murmured. His antlers had already shed, replaced by two puny stumps that scarcely showed his rule. In fact, nearly half the clan had already shed their antlers, awaiting the springtime breezes that would—hopefully—bring fresh foliage to the valley.
“Indeed,” was the buck’s only reply. His heart was set in sorrow, though. It was a sorrow that would not remove its crawling veins from his mind. The buck found no meaning in his emotion any longer, and no reason to consult his elders in his time of need. If he had only followed his head away from the site’s vicinity, he may have not had his fate, as events came across. But, as it was, the buck was far too caring for his own good.
In the blustering gale of the Wolf Moon, the clan Dark Moraine had made a temporary settlement. When spring breezes came, they would move on their families to softer meadows, away from the falling forests. Their leader was a tender, but bold buck. He had fought his way from being a loner in the dark woods of the north to a worthy opponent for any challenger. Although he wandered with no name, the clan called him Sipu.
So, for moons upon moon, Sipu had led with a heart of the river, a great and strong heart that would echo the values of which the clan stood for. Indeed, the clan was a gathering of no ordinary deer—no deer was admitted unless they possessed a mark on the flank that showed their inner potential for casting the ancient magic.
It was with this secret that the clan was able to live on through the endless ages. If any outsider had ever merged, they would have disbanded immediately, for their magic was far too dangerous to release into the world outside of Dark Moraine.
Sipu contemplated this as he gazed mournfully at the young fawn in front of him. Kashane seemed to grow weary, and turned to leave.
“The deed is almost done, and I suppose you should return to the elders, now,” he advised.
Sipu sighed and stared back to the small hollow in the ground. There lied a tan fawn, with beautiful freckles dotting its flank. Freckles the hue of a fire. Its eyes closed for the final time as the misty blue haze of the elders’ cast slowly encircled her snout.
“Why did it have to be this way?” he asked himself.
The fawn had arrived in Dark Moraine last Harvest Moon, when all was merry and joyful. She had come as a tender young babe, unable to speak the mother tongue of the land, yet she had possessed not only the mark of the cast, but a fiery aura that foresaw great fortune for their future. Sipu had taken it upon himself to put her in his care and called her Time.
However, as seasons and moons passed, Dark Moraine had begun to fall under distress. Newborn began to die shortly after birth. Grass and foliage ceased their growth. The sun was covered for days on end. Although the vast majority of the clan starved, Time had been able to gather nuts for the elders without a twinge of hunger. She seemed to possess a power much greater than that any of the other deer, and though their magic corroded during the dark days, it was Time who remained as healthy as a newborn. Over time, the clan had singled out the fawn as the bearer of evil, and cast her away. Now, Sipu was left to watch as the cast magic slowly wrung out all the ounces of life from the young fawn who had once brought him so much joy.
As he knelt down, he noticed Time flutter one of her eyes open. He blinked, and sat up. Again, the young fawn stirred. The magic was working, but the elders had made a grave miscalculation—she was far too powerful to be brought down with a simple cast as they had made. Her body was still intact, so survival was still possible.
“I will bring you back,” Sipu muttered and thus began his incantation. With every breath, the deathly winds broke down until the gales had ceased and the forest was calm, free of noise.
Although fatigued, Sipu mustered up the energy to leap into the ditch. Indeed, within seconds Time had gained full consciousness and stood, too, in the face of her savior.
“Father,” she said, her eyes piercing with the colors of rubies.
“You’ve awaken,” he muttered, breathless. “Follow me, for the clan has still set its mind against your power.”
Even as he turned, though, the buck knew the fawn would not follow. “I have a destiny far from that of your clan. Dark Moraine will cast this day in infamy,” Time stated, her voice with hardly a quaver.
Sipu turned around, his eyes full of regret. “Our clan survives on the principles of survival, my blossom. For seasons we have cast aside the weak. It was not in my power to dispute with the elders. However, I will make sure that the clan accepts you as one even if my heart is destroyed.”
Time scowled and pawed the ground. Her eyes were shining with hatred and loathe. “No one will listen, my father. Dark Moraine deserves nothing if they can’t even allow in a young fawn with magic in her blood and magic in her veins.”
Before he could reply, the buck felt a stroke to the neck and a hard knock to the head. There was a loud thump, and he fell onto a loan patch of snow, as limp as moss.
“Dark Moraine will rue the day they cast aside Time. They were right. I am too powerful for their puny hearts,” the young fawn proclaimed, her dainty ears tingling as the mighty buck closed his eyes for the final time.